Monday, November 22, 2010

Some verification for my Yukon theories

In my Captain Jack book and on my website I proposed two theories not found elsewhere but based on an awful lot of research. These are as follows - 

The Han First Nations, along with other Native groups in the Yukon region, principally those who raised sled dogs, seem to have Asian origins and in fact, Han is also the name of a Chinese dynasty. In some very old writings a monk stated there were "two Hans" - the one in China and another one in a place that well could have been Alaska and the Yukon Territories.

My theory is simply that the Han natives of the Yukon were Asian in origin. One bit of helpful evidence is a study done in Europe that virtually proves that all modern domesticated dog species had their start in Asia. On my website, under the "Dogs of the North" link, I show the Han man who took us down the Yukon, comparing him to a modern day Chinese Han descendant. They look like brothers or father and son.

A book I just purchased includes a letter written by a fairly well-known Harper's Magazine writer named Tappan Adney. Adney had written an article in which he quotes Hans as referring to Captain Jack McQuesten as "Injun Papa." Of course, others called him Father of the Yukon and Father of Alaska.

In a letter Tappan wrote to his employers he tells  a story that supports the Han/Han theory to some degree:

"As we draw near, it proves to be a party known as the "Christie" party from the Skagway trail. They have a Japanese cook aboard. The Indians on Lake Labarge would not believe (he) was not an Indian "You Injun?"  "No!"  "You mama Injun?"  "No!"  "You papa Injun?"  "No! No!" -"

So it appears that even the natives of that period could not tell a Japanese man from their own tribesmen, adding considerable support to my theory. I know there is a difference between the Chinese and Japanese but they both obviously have Asian features.

Another theory I've proposed is that the Vikings played at least some role in early Yukon history, and especially in the naming of the Klondike. The original name for the river was Thronduik, meaning "hammer water" or "hammer a water dam" as this is where the Han set up fish dams to catch salmon. Some have thought the hammer part referred to the stakes being driven in to hold the fish nets.

The greatest god of the Norse was Thor, the Hammer God. Dike is a Scandinavian word for a water dam. So Thronduik, and the similar word Thordike would  mean essentially the same thing - "Hammer a water dam."

There was another interesting story in this new book I purchased about a report by an Ethnologist of that time period who said that the Eskimos around Herschel Island and the Mackenzie River told him that before their grandfather's time (which he says is how they dated almost every old story) –  "There once lived here a people who hunted exclusively whale, and who were men of prowess and remarkable seamanship." He added "In a measure, our excavations confirmed this tradition."

I had also found the old report about a group of blue-eyed, fair-haired, taller than normal Eskimos being found in pretty much the same area of the mouth of the Mackenzie River, along the shoreline. The explorer that found them conjectured they were a mix of local Eskimo and Norsemen. There are records of Norse setting off from Greenland and Iceland heading west and never being seen again. There is also a tradition that the Vikings were the first "white" men the Eskimo had ever seen. 

This final story seems to support that theory since, beyond the obvious physical characteristics matching the typical Norseman, the Vikings were men of prowess and remarkable seamanship, for sure, and considered the best whalers in the world. One old magazine article from 1939 says that "Unquestionably, many valuable secrets of whales generally are stored up in the heads of Norwegian sailors. They know much more than you will find in any published work."

A website on the Vikings of Greenland talks about their interaction with the Inuit or Eskimo  – 

"The disappearance of the Greenlanders has intrigued students of history for centuries. One old source held that Inuit, who had crossed over from Ellesmere Island in the far north around A.D. 1000, migrated down the west coast and overran the settlement. Ivar Bardarson, steward of the Church's property in Greenland, and a member of a sister settlement 300 miles to the southeast, was said to have gathered a force and sailed northwest to drive the interlopers out. When the Norsemen arrived in Greenland, they had the island and its waters to themselves. Now they had to contend with the Inuit, who were competing with them for animal resources. 

This was especially true in the Nordseta, the Greenlanders' traditional summer hunting grounds. For years the Norsemen had been traveling to the area; they killed the walruses, narwahls, and polar bears they needed for trade with Europe and for payment of Church tithes and royal taxes.

"Inuit-Norse relations seem to have been fairly friendly at times, hostile at others. Few Inuit objects have been unearthed at the farms. Various Norse items, including bits of chain mail and a hinged bronze bar from a folding scale, have been found at Inuit camps in Greenland, mainland Canada, and on Baffin, Ellesmere, and Devon Islands. These are suggestive of commerce between the two peoples, but they may also have been seized by Inuit during raids on hunting parties in the Nordseta or plundered from farms."

Another website says that no one really knows where the area of Nordseta really was, but it was a favorite whaling grounds for the Vikings.

If Vikings made it to the Yukon area, whether on purpose to hunt whales, by an accident of weather and fate, or as captives of the Eskimos, it is quite possible that their Hammer God, Thor, and their word for water dam, "dike" could have somehow been incorporated into the name of the stream that became known as the Klondike.

I also have a pretty good idea how Thronduik became Klondike, but I'll save that for another day. 


  1. Jim, what you have said makes total sense to me; although I have never read or heard in any of my history (at least to my memory) anything about the Vikings sailing to Alaska. I also agree with your surmise about Klondike, which make sense also. Thank you.

  2. Re: your theory of the natives of Alaska: While stationed in Taiwan, we drove down island one weekend to a place called Sun Moon Lake. There is a tribe of aboriginal people who live there, who look a LOT like our American Indians. They are taller, and have less sharp features than the Taiwanese and Chinese. Another thing I found odd was their use of totem poles, just like the natives of Alaska and the Northwest. Even their mode of dress was similar.

    Thanks, Wayne. It's little additions like your story that add up to the bigger picture. Jack wasn't just traveling into a new wilderness, that he could have contended with, but he was also meeting new cultures in a land of little law or at least different laws - the French trappers, the Russians who had owned and controlled the vast majority of the lower Yukon for years, the Han- type Indians of Asian blood, the Athabascan Indians of Amerindian blood similar to the Navajo and Apache, and finally the Eskimo who maintained a considerably different lifestyle than either the Han or Amerindians. On top of all that, he had to deal with Canadian law especially the Mounties who were after the government share of the gold and liquor sales.

    He might have been a loner for a dozen or so years before he got there, but he found himself dealing with lots of different cultures, languages, and laws of the land, once he arrived.

    To be singled out from all these people as the Father of Alaska, Father of the Yukon and even Injun Papa was a pretty significant honor.